Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tin Roof Shanty

I began by writing memories of stories that my Dad and Chuck had told me over the years, for my descendants. I wanted them to know something about their ancestors. Except for the stories they told me I have had to dig for the rest.

I joined and started chasing dead and living relatives, set up my Tree and began to fill in blanks. There are still blanks, and I have been at it steadily since 1996.

After Chuck passed away I just didn’t know where I belonged for a long time, and no place I tried to live satisfied. I eventually bought a derelict place on Kissmequick Island and began to rebuild it. It was a one bedroom trailer with a huge room built on. Most on my friends thought I had lost my mind.

I had it stripped out inside and put in a new bathroom, and kitchen sink and cupboards. I also had built onto it a huge deck which overlooked the Eastern Shore, the view was awesome especially the sun rises and moon rises, I had the whole place wrapped with cypress, all new windows, and a new roof over with tin.

During the process of rebuilding it, the Lord was rebuilding me. I was learning to live one day at a time without the physical presence of my husband in my life, and it was most difficult!

Before he passed on, he made me promise that I would write a book about my life and some of the things I have overcome. I had every excuse in the book and then some, but he had an answer for every one of them.

My last year in High School was 1954, I have forgotten everything I had ever learned about English, Grammar and especially Punctuation.

I did not know how to type, never learned how to in High School, I did have a typewriter with letters on the keys, but I could only do the two finger hunt and peck, still do, but I have picked up some speed with this method.

After the little cottage was finished I moved in, as my mind began to settle somewhat I filled five legal pads in cursive writing with memories. And as you write them down; more are stirred up.

I went over to Orlando, and Nick & Theresa took me shopping for a computer, very scary! Chas, one of my five granddaughters was in school at U of F came on weekends and taught me a lot.

I named my little cottage my “Tin Roof Shanty” my friend Carmen Day Williams painted this on a drift board for me and I hung it out front in a big oak tree. It was so peaceful living there I will eventually show photos. I don't have any in my computer at this time.

Brown Pelican Restaurant Dock Street
Cedar Key Florida
photo by Florida Memory

The reason I named it “Tin Roof Shanty” was a friend, John Starr living on the island at that time wrote the music for an anonymous poem that was found written on a placemat at the Brown Pelican Restaurant in Cedar Key. I had always thought that John Starr wrote the lyrics and the music, but I have been told by several that he only wrote the music.

It is a beautiful ballad of the struggle to maintain the old island ways, and flavor, with the new development that was beginning to happen.

Another friend Shelton Irwin recorded it, and it was, and is one of my favorites. After Shelton recorded it, Bertie Higgins recorded it.

Whoever wrote the poem had some personal knowledge of the people of Cedar Key and how they made their living. I for one am very grateful that it was written and put to music and recorded, for all to enjoy. 

I tried to put in a link so everyone could hear Shelton's version, but I could not get it to work. Neither could Tom who came by to help me with it.

John Shelton Irwin
performing onstage of the Gazebo
that he played and sang at various fund
raisers to help build this Gazebo in the Cedar Key Park
I just learned today 12-15-14 that Shelton passed away a couple of days ago. He was a dear friend, and will be sorely missed by many. I dedicate this story that I wrote some time ago, in memory of Shelton Irwin.

The Tin Roof Shanty is where I was living when I had the first stroke in 2002 and I had to move away. Could not go back because of health issues, and sadly;I had to sell it!

The point of this story is;  over a period of time I became addicted to writing stories. After the first stroke; writing memories became a therapy. I suppose I will continue just as long as I can because I love what I do.

I would encourage everyone who doesn't already; to write your memories of your family stories for your descendents, the stories are a storehouse of treasure.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Lighthouse

Many years ago my husband who is now deceased was a sea Captain with many years of experience and at this time he worked as the Superintendent of Marine Services for the University of Florida. 

He maintained the island called Seahorse Key which is one of the barrier islands off Cedar Key, Florida. The U of F has a Marine Biology Laboratory located there.

The base where the light sat
Diana Beckham Topping
Down Home Adventure Trips

The RV meant Research Vessel and
Western View of Seahorse Key Lighthouse
E.Lowe Pierce was the Professor who started the Marine Biology program at the U of F, and the boat was named in his honor. 

One Saturday morning we had gone out to Seahorse Reef so that he could do a little research, he was trying to plot rock piles on the chart so that he could take the students on diving trips there.

The sea was calm and we had enjoyed the time just working back and forth from 25 to 28 foot depth looking for rock piles and marking them on the chart. 

Off that portion of the central Gulf coast of Florida the depth of the water drops about a foot to the mile.

During this time we were listening to a radio conversation between a Coast Guard Vessel out of Yankeetown and a stranded fishing vessel. The stranded vessel had been to the middle grounds on a fishing trip the day before. The middle grounds are about 90 miles off shore.

When they had headed back in they got caught in a squall out of the south west and they had used up their gas supply just trying to hold the boat into the sea so as not drift farther out to sea and become totally lost at sea. They had spent the night stranded out there.

There were three men aboard the stranded vessel which was a 16 foot boat, and they kept saying they were in 28 feet of water, but that was where we were, the Coast Guard was a good distance farther south, and they were also. We had covered a lot of area between the main channel at Seahorse Key and the mouth of the Suwannee River and they were no where in sight.

About mid-afternoon the Coast Guard Vessel told them they would have to abandon the search. They could see another squall brewing far out in the south west and they too were running low on gas. They had been looking for at least three hours.

Chuck raised one of the men on the stranded vessel on the radio after the Coast Guard headed in, and he said, “The Coast Guard has abandoned their search, but we’ll see if we can help. Check your depth Gage again. We are in 28 feet of water and you are no where in sight. You have to be farther out.”

The man answered after he checked it and said, “You’re right we’re in 48 feet of water.”  But he had no idea how we would be able to find him. He had no other instruments that worked.

There was an odd shaped cloud in a clear sky, it was shaped like a Z, but looked as though it was lying partially on its side with the bottom elbow being longer and pointing downward.

Chuck described the odd shaped cloud and asked him, “Can you see it?”
The guy answered, “Yes I can.” Chuck said, “Where are you in relation to that cloud?” And he answered “That bottom elbow hanging down is directly off my stern, almost seems like it’s pointing right at me.”

Chuck told him, “Just hang in there I have a compass fix , and we’re headed that way, it will take me awhile to get to you.”  It did take us awhile because the E Lowe Pierce was not a fast running boat. It was well over an hour before we spotted them. Chuck threw them a line when we were close enough, and invited them to come aboard; but they opted to stay aboard their boat in tow.

Chuck said, “You’re in for one rough ride if you stay aboard because it’s gonna get
Lightning Bolts
rough”. But they decided to stay aboard anyway. And we headed back in with them in tow. We’d been running about 45 minutes and then we began to see the storm moving in. 

The sky turned very dark and we could literally see lightning bolts striking the water and shooting sprays of water upwards and outwards.

It got darker and darker. And it got rougher and rougher as the storm overtook us. There is no light in the Lighthouse at Seahorse Key anymore, but Thank God I know that Jesus is my lighthouse so I was praying. 

It was raining so hard and it was so dark Chuck could not see; he was running by his instruments. He would tease, “You keep talking to Jesus, Baby Love and I’ll keep this Caterpillar running”. He was referring to the diesel engine.

Across the sky Lightning
The lightning changed from striking bolts to awesome streaks across the sky, but it got rougher,  at times we were diving the bow under; the sea water would wash over the windshield and the top of the cabin and run off the stern.

He kept his course steady and ran by his instruments. My husband was so at home when he manned the helm of a boat; it seemed as if the boat was an extension of his body.

At long last we could see the entrance buoy light of North West Channel, which lies between Seahorse Key and North Key. In that kind of total black darkness even the faintest light seems like a beacon, we knew for certain we were on course and would soon be home.

View from the air of
Seahorse Key

It calmed somewhat when we got inside behind the islands, and the going was easier. When we finally tied up to the dock about 10:30 that night and the men were getting off their boat one of them said to me, “Lady I don’t know who is running that boat, but I can tell you for sure that he knows what he’s doing.”

I said, “Yes sir he is a very able seaman, but one greater than him brought us in tonight.” And he chuckled and answered, “Yes mam, I agree and I made Him a solemn promise that if He would help me get my feet back on solid ground; He wouldn't ever have to worry about me being out yonder again!”

This story can very easily be related to spiritual darkness.  When one walks in spiritual darkness, a new born babe in Christ can seem like a beacon to you. A lot of people who walk in spiritual darkness are looking for light whether they realize it or not.

Just as we kept peering through the windshield looking for the entrance buoy light, they too are seeking for light to enter; the light that shines through his people is Jesus; the Light of the world. Those who walk in darkness are looking for the Jesus Light in you, so let your light shine!

Friday, November 21, 2014

My Other Marine Corp Granddaughter

As many of you already know I have two granddaughters currently serving in the United States Marine Corp.

Nicole, Amber, and Warren
During her senior year of High School Amber Marie Haven, lived in Beaufort, South Carolina and graduated from Beaufort High School,
and during this time she lived with Joe, Nicole and Ava Bastian.

Nicole was already a Marine and stationed at Parris Island, she encouraged Amber to work out with her and by the time Amber enlisted in the Corp she was in good physical shape so the rough and tough physical training recruits endure was not quite as difficult.

Amber second row far right
on night maneuvers
She graduated Boot Camp April 23, 2010 as PFC Haven. She was promoted to PFC before graduation because during High School she was enrolled in ROTC for 3 years. She received a Sharpshooter medal and missed Expert Badge by one or two points. She said, “Don't worry Granny, when I get to take it again I’ll make Expert.”

This was another proud day for me and the rest of the family, Nicole ordered tee shirts with Amber’s name and Platoon 4012 for all of us to wear. Stormy and Warren were living in Beaufort at the time and we stayed with them for a great family time together, my only regret was Chuck was not with us to see her graduate! 

Nicole, Amber wearing Sharp Shooter Medal
and Bo wearing tee shirt

We had a family picnic on the base after a morning of parades and photos before graduation the next day. It was such an exciting time.

Amber and Charlie at the picnic

After Boot Camp she was transferred to MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) school in Maryland for Combat Camera.  She was promoted to Lance Cpl. Oct 1, 2010. Upon graduation from school she was transferred to Camp Pendleton.
When she did her Rifle Qualification at Camp Pendleton again she did make Expert. She has since received Expert 3 or 4 times now her last score was 334 out of 350.

She is now stationed at Miramar also in San Diego. While there, she has flown in Fat Albert during the MCAS Miramar Air Show on different occasions. Fat Albert is the Navy's Blue Angels’ C-130.

Fat Albert, by Wikipedia

Anthony and Amber
before Gladiator Run

Anthony and Amber on the Mudslide
 during the Run
She also does obstacle races on occasion, and not long ago participated in the Gladiator Run with her boyfriend, Anthony Dalo. 
Amber After Run

Anthony And Amber
after Run

She is the mother of Ayla Rose, one of my 6 great grandchildren.

I am very proud of both of my Marine granddaughters, and that so many of my family members have served in the military forces for the Freedom of our country, I am also sad; because our country is losing many of the freedoms we have all enjoyed as Americans for so long.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kevin Windham

The first I ever heard of Kevin Windham was after Chuck spent a weekend at the River on a fishing trip with our son-in-law Warren Villareal, our nephew Nick Barton and one of his submarine buddies Kevin Windham.

Nick and Kevin were active duty and serving together and stationed at Kings Bay Submarine Base, in Kingsland, Georgia. 

The guys had quite a weekend. Kevin was happy that he got to meet a dinosaur, an 'Old Navy' submarine sailor. Over the next few years I heard a lot about Kevin, but did not meet him personally for some time.

I can not convey to the reader how much this man means to me, or how much I deeply appreciate him! I will share my story and I am sure you will understand.

Chuck passed away on July 13, 1995 after a long, difficult battle with cancer which was caused from being exposed to asbestos for so many years. In trying to make funeral arrangements I was told by the Funeral Director that since we lived more than fifty miles from a base there would not be a Military service.

My heart was broken because this was Chuck’s wishes. Chuck was military to the core. I personally called three bases, Eglin Field, NAS in Jacksonville, and McDill, and was told the same thing by each, but that I could try the VFW.

Same story, I called several and was told by each that if he was not a member of their Post they would not.

My daughter Stormy called me early evening to see if I had been able to arrange it, and in tears, I told her no. She said, “Mother just stand by, if you want a Military service for Daddy, by-damn you’ll have one!”

She then called Nick who was out of the Navy by this time, he in turn called Kevin who was still active duty and stationed at Kings Bay Submarine Base in Kingsland, Georgia.

I don’t have a clue as to who he called or what he said, but in less than two hours after I spoke with Stormy, I received a call from a lady at Kings Bay Submarine Base. She said, “Ms. Haven I pulled your husband’s record, I just called to let you know there will be a detail sent from here to Cedar Key to honor your husband and he will have a Military service; just let me know the time!”

Nick called me later and said, “If no one else has offered yet Kevin would like to attend and pin his Dolphins on Uncle Chuck.”

I told him no one had, but I had not yet notified everyone, but it would be okay with me. I had never heard of this so I asked Nick about it and he said, “It’s just something submarine sailors do for their buddies who sail on Eternal Patrol.”

It touched my heart big time!

I called several of his shipmates and let them know when all the arrangements were made. Little John (Gene Courmier) arrived the next day from Vinton, La. He had served aboard the USS Grenadier SS 525 with Chuck.

We were sitting on the porch talking, and I asked him about this and he told me the same thing Nick had, then he said to his wife, “What was the last thing I told you to make sure is packed?” She answered, “Your Dolphins.”

He told me he had planned to pin his on Chuck, but since I had already had another submarine sailor, this would be fine with him.

On the day of the service it was raining, and it continued to rain all day. The military detail was there and they did a beautiful service. When they finished Kevin in his dress Whites pinned his Dolphins on the breast Chuck's suit; which was actually his dress Blues that he'd had the rate badge and hash marks removed from the sleeve, and he always told me he wanted to be buried in this suit, then Kevin stepped back and saluted Chuck.

Kevin Windham 

His Dolphins were sterling silver and they were special to him because they had been a gift to him from someone special. I am eternally grateful to Kevin Windham that he cared enough for Chuck to honor Chuck in this way, especially having never served aboard any Boat with him.

Kevin Windham retired as a Master Chief MT (E-9) after 30 years of service. I consider him one of the finest among Fine Submarine Sailor's!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hoyt Wallan Haven

Hoyt was Chuck’s only brother and he was eight years older, Hoyt was born February 10, 1921 in Sebring, Florida, Their Dad was a railroad man and at that time he worked out of Sebring.

They later purchased the property in West Lake Wales, which at that time was Lake Wales, they lived in a tent on the property till Papa and Mr Lamb built the first four rooms of the main house.

After Chuck was a little older he wanted to tag along wherever his big brother went, but big brother didn't like this very much. A great comic strip at that time was titled Worrywart, and it was about a big and little brother; so Hoyt started calling Chuck Worrywart.

Over the years Worrywart was shortened to Wart and to this day Chuck is known in Cedar Key as Wart by the older folks.

Hoyt always had a job of some sort and he did all the mechanic work on the cars that the family owned.
Hoyt and a lady friend Frances
He joined the United States Navy when he was 19 and served for thirty years before retiring. During WWII he served aboard P T Boats in the South Pacific. 

Not long ago I read a book titled “Sea of Thunder”.The author was Evan Thomas, in the book were maps of some of the battles in the Leyte Gulf. In one of the images it showed six PT Boats in that battle, he was aboard one of these six Boats in this battle.

He was never stationed aboard the same PT Boat as John F Kennedy, but the fleet of PT Boats was not all that large and he did know him personally. They were stationed on the same island much of the time.

After World War II ended, he served during the Korean Conflict, and then he was transferred to Turkey and he was there for a long time.

After Turkey he was transferred to Milton, Florida and he met the woman that he later married and she also had thirty years in the Navy when she retired. Hoyt retired as a Chief Auxillaryman.

When he retired he returned to West Lake Wales, and he and his wife Abby lived here until they both passed on.

Hoyt died of cancer April 10, 1976 in Lake Wales Hospital, as many servicemen have died from cancer because they are exposed to asbestos on a large scale during their years in service. Abby passed a few years later.

Left to right Walter Sterns Gussie Collins Haven Sterns,
Hoyt Haven, Bernice Collins , Grandma Minnie Collins
Hoyt loved Cedar Key, and visited every opportunity to fish and harvest oysters and other seafood for the family table. He never lived there though like Chuck did, but this is where he wanted to be buried because many of the ancestors are also resting here.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Spooky Thing Happened

This is one of my stories that I have no explanation for, just one of those spooky things that happens at times to almost everyone.

It was after Chuck passed away and I was living in the woods alone, I always kept my porch light on at night and I had a pit bull named Thor that was an excellent watch dog. He would always bark if someone came.

I was watching TV and I heard him snarling, and growling and then he started barking. I got up and opened the door and he was stretched out as far as he could on the rope I kept him tied with at night, he was raising hell and all the hackles on his back standing straight up. I looked in the direction he was facing.

Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou
It was a bright moonlight night and standing in the eve of the back porch stood a big man. He was dressed like a cowboy. He was wearing a black hat with silver broaches around the band, like the one Lee Marvin wore in Cat Ballou.

Silver Boots
He was also wearing silver cowboy boots, I could see the gleam of them in the moonlight. His right side was toward me. 

He was wearing a long black duster. The shadow of the hat brim kept me from seeing his face clearly.
A Cowboy in a Black Duster
I was shocked and I started to ask him who he is and what did he want, and then I thought to myself, you idiot, what are you doing? 

He is a stranger and you have no idea what his intentions are. I closed and locked the door. I slipped into my bedroom and got my loaded shotgun that I kept beside my bed.

I eased into my bathroom and slowly opened the window, feeling I was in a better position to ask him who he is and what he wanted. There was no one there. And by this time the dog had hushed.

I began feeling foolish and would have talked myself into thinking it was just wild imagination, but if I had imagined it, why would the
dog have raised such a ruckus?

Sleep did not come easy for me that night I was jittery and could not make my mind shut down. Eventually sleep came. The next morning I made my coffee and went out on the front porch to drink it.

Immediately I began thinking about last night, so I got up and walked around the house to where the cowboy had been standing, just knowing I would find those boot prints and I could track him back to where he came in from. Only one dirt road in about a quarter mile.

I was totally amazed, there were no boot prints in the sand, so it left me scratching my head. I could believe that it was just my imagination except for Thor’s reaction.

I have thought about it many times since, but have never figured it out. I choose to believe it was an angel, and yes they do sometimes appear as a cowboy.